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Same-Sex Marriage Bill Strikes a Good Balance

16 February 2017 at 3:38 pm
Lina Caneva
A consensus Parliamentary report into the federal government's same-sex marriage bill strikes a good balance between freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination, according to The Law Council of Australia.

Lina Caneva | 16 February 2017 at 3:38 pm


Same-Sex Marriage Bill Strikes a Good Balance
16 February 2017 at 3:38 pm

A consensus Parliamentary report into the federal government’s same-sex marriage bill strikes a good balance between freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination, according to The Law Council of Australia.

The Select Committee report on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, released Thursday, reached agreement on key issues.

These include:

  • ministers of religion should be able to refuse to marry same-sex couples
  • removal of “conscientious objection” provisions
  • creating a new category of independent religious celebrants to cater for those people with religious beliefs, but requiring all other celebrants to marry same-sex couples
  • strictly confining the exemptions available to “religious bodies” to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod said the areas of agreement would, if implemented, improve the bill significantly and called on Parliament to progress the report’s findings.

“The Law Council has been a long-standing supporter of same-sex marriage, however, changes to the Marriage Act need to carefully balance freedom of religion with the freedom from discrimination,” McLeod said.

“We are pleased to see that the committee suggests that ministers of religion, and certain religious celebrants, should be able to refuse to marry same-sex couples in line with their beliefs. Civil celebrants on the other hand are performing a secular function and so have no other proper basis for exemption.

“We are also happy that the committee agrees with the Law Council that ‘religious bodies’ that were not specifically established for religious purposes, should not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

“We further note that the committee did not recommend exempting individuals or commercial businesses from anti-discrimination law who hold a ‘conscientious’ objection to providing goods and services for same-sex weddings.

“Striking this balance between freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination is a challenging task. It is the Law Council’s view that the committee’s suggestions achieve this balance well and should therefore be accepted by Parliament,” McLeod said.

The Exposure Draft was released by the Attorney-General for consultation alongside the proposed legislation for a same-sex marriage plebiscite.

In releasing the latest report, the committee said the inquiry provided an opportunity to consider the evidence “in a more collegiate and coordinated manner and to identify where there may be areas of agreement, and to better understand and narrow those areas where there are differences of approach”.

In November 2016 the controversial $170 million plebiscite to legalise same-sex marriage was blocked by the senate.

“Despite this, the associated Exposure Draft released… as part of the preparatory work for a proposed plebiscite, was deemed to be a useful vehicle to seek consensus on agreed elements of the proposal, and to better identify the substantive issues that remain contested as a result of people’s varying political or philosophical perspectives,” the parliamentary report said.

“It is the hope and intention of the committee that this body of evidence will prove a valuable and instructive foundation, identifying the scope of issues to be addressed by a parliament considering legislative changes to the definition of marriage in this area.”

Senator Penny Wong, the leader of the opposition in the senate, congratulated the multi-partisan committee, led by Liberal Senator David Fawcett,on they way they had approached the task and said the report represented “a significant and important moment in this debate”.

“This committee, made up of members of parties from all corners of this parliament has reached an historic agreement on how we can move forward and achieve marriage equality,” Wong said.

“And we ought to pause to consider the enormity of that achievement.

“A debate so often mired in partisanship, mired in acrimony, a debate characterised by finger pointing, we have a spirit of cooperation and the agreement around this report.

“The parliament should follow the example of the Fawcett committee.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

One comment

  • Neil Aitchison says:

    Marriage has always been a choice and it always will be. It is not a right. Even the European Union has recently acknowledged this. It is not listed as a right with the United Nations and same sex marriage was never considered necessary or desirable in the history of marriage in Australia until only the past few years after John Howard orchestrated a definition in the Marriage Act – a definition that stated the obvious and reflected the millennia-old institution of marriage (already defined under Common Law). Human Rights? Scientific facts are inherent to the material nature of the universe, but “human rights” are composed by the words of the laws which bestow those rights. There are no “human rights” out there in the universe to discover, there is only what you can get enforced in your favour in a court (a right) and those things you wish you could get enforced in your favour (an aspiration). And those aspirations are culturally and linguistically conditioned. So since when is it a human right for homosexuals to redefine the meaning of marriage to suit their relationships? Never. Every person in Australia today (including a homosexual) has the same equal right to marriage, but just because their choice of partner doesn’t meet the definition doesn’t mean their human rights are being oppressed. Those who choose a person who is already married, under 18, or a close relative also cannot marry. The homosexual’s options are exactly the same as the heterosexual’s – so choose a new partner that meets the definition, or not marry. And for the record, Howard’s rewording of the Marriage Act was done purely to reflect the standard meaning of the word marriage under Common Law, to stop activists twisting things around and using courts to destroy marriage. He didn’t change anything, it is same sex marriage activists who are trying to change things.

    Even if homosexual marriage becomes legal in Australia, it will just be a “label” that the government gives them by issuing them a “Marriage Certificate” and nothing more – it will never be considered legitimate because it is different to heterosexual marriage in every way possible (homosexual marriage uses the word “homosexual” to describe it and is sex-oriented whereas heterosexual marriage is just “marriage” and is family-oriented)…..and the way that the homosexual lobbyists have forced the whole thing onto the public using tactics like “overwhelm the opposition” on social media, name/shame/boycott opponents in public, emotional manipulation with homosexuals in movies, music, sitcoms, studies, media, schools, universities, sporting activities and even “church” to make it look normal and pretend that it is scientifically/historically/politically/economically advantageous to humankind (when the opposite is true) will never make homosexuality acceptable. They put forward children as “human shields” to avoid criticism (after all, who will argue politics with a child?) by getting children to parrot their propaganda slogans and tug at our heartstrings, but in fact, the children are just naive pawns in their emotive game – the activists themselves are adopting the petulant childlike attitude: “I want…I want…you’re mean…give it to me”.


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